Mont Blanc in the morning.
On a small budget in a small car packed with four people and luggage, after driving for 18 hours with a couple of hours rest in between, and then a short nights sleep we awoke and pulled back the blinds to witness the most amazing view that we could ever imagine.
The car was a Vauxhall Astra 1700 diesel, old and battered it had cost just £250 and very little to insure. So far it had been used to ferry my family and I around the UK and had never failed us, it was not the most comfortable of cars but it was cheap to run and drove well enough.
A popular national newspaper regularly offered cheap holidays for families which you got by buying the paper and collecting the coupons, we had taken a couple of these in Devon and Cornwall, caravaning in those large static mobile homes which were comfortable enough for a week. We were now looking at the same offers for destinations in Europe, local holidays were booked out of season and cost a mere £9.50 all in, no catch they were cheap but places were limited, the European holidays were a bit more expensive £19.50 and included ferry crossing from Dover to Calais, you made your own way there and back but accommodation was supplied.
We booked a week in Bella Italia, Peschiera del Garda , on the shores of Lake Garda northern Italy, to get there we would land at Calais and drive the length of France through the Alps into Northern Italy and then across to Lake Garda where we would stay for five days visiting Pisa, Verona, Venice and Florenze and drive through the Apenines the dolomites, Austria, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, visiting the Matterhorn, Zermatt, Interlaken, Bern and Innsbruck. But we needed to stay somewhere on the way down, it was a long journey and we had two weeks.
In the French Alps near a town called Sallanches which is close to the popular ski resort of Chamonix under Mont Blanc is a small village called Combloux, during the summer months the chalets are rented as holiday apartments, they are usually skiing facilities and so they all have heated pools and a jacuzzi. Basic but very clean and presentable as you would expect from southern France, very friendly and polite service, I cannot praise this area enough, definitely my favourite destination in Europe and I have been to most Western European countries.
Our journey began in the Midlands of England we drove for three hours or so to Dover and caught an early morning ferry, after trying to catch a nap with two kids wanting things all the time we arrived in Calais at about 10, o'clock in the morning and set off to experience driving on the wrong side of the road down to Reims (we did Paris on the way back). Then Troyes, Dijon where we had a nap, and down to Macon where we turned left and headed toward the Alps. Finally after many wrong turns arriving at our destination at 02:30 in the morning, keys were left in an envelope and we unpacked the very packed car found our room and had a cup of tea.
We had turned left at Macon late in the afternoon it was September so the nights were drawing in, by the time we reached the Alps the only way of knowing was that better cars were whizzing past us while we tried to battle the incline, we occasionally saw blacker areas than the black sky which we assumed were hills and so to our journeys end we saw no real evidence of the Alpine hills and mountains until we would awake the next morning, we knew nothing at the time of what we could expect.
I woke early pulled back the curtains and stood in awe, I called my partner and kids to come see what view we had awoken to, what view we were honoured to have travelled and stressed for so long to espy , unfortunately I could never describe it sufficiently to give it justice, I at forty three years have never seen the like, to do so I would have to visit all corners of the Earth and even having another forty three years may not be enough to experience such an image of absolute power and beauty in one instant.
I did not take a picture of the view that morning, I do not think that we had a memory card or batteries at the time so the photos that I do have are just a shadow of that morning view, one that will never be repeated, one that will never be forgotten.